The UK’s advertising regulator is investigating a growing number of over-inflated and misleading claims by tech companies about artificial intelligence.

The trend, dubbed “AI washing,” is emerging as a problem in an industry where firms fear missing out on investment if they don’t mention or advertise their AI credentials.

Amazon is the most high-profile company to have fallen foul of overselling its AI capabilities earlier this year after being forced to ditch its ‘Just Walk Out’ checkouts in physical stores.

The tech giant claimed an advanced AI-powered system was being deployed to allow customers to simply pick up groceries and leave, with billings calculated automatically using AI sensors.

However, it was found that around 1,000 workers overseas were manually checking the vast majority of transactions.

Following the recent explosion in artificial intelligence, firms believe they need to showcase their “generative AI” capabilities to stay ahead.

Research by OpenOcean found a third of all tech start-ups are expected to use AI in their business pitches this year.

More worryingly, another study by MMC Ventures found that 40% of “AI start-ups” don’t use AI at all.

KMPG’s tech risk boss, Douglas Dick, says the ambiguity about AI and its use cases is an issue.

He notes: “AI washing can have concerning impacts for businesses, from overpaying for technology and services to failing to meet operational objectives the AI was expected to help them achieve.”

The UK’s advertising regulator is sitting up and taking notice.

While it already has a code of conduct and laws covering AI, these might not be enough to deter companies from exaggerating its capabilities.

Experts say the “AI hype cycle” is at its peak, and the issue could resolve itself organically. MMC Ventures head Advika Jalan, says advertising AI might soon be like saying “we’re on the internet”.